Friday, July 22, 2011

Natural remedies for coughs & colds: Elderberry Syrup

Winter is here with a vengeance and that brings on coughs and colds so today I am sharing a natural treatment to help boost your immune system, Homemade Elderberry Syrup. The last few weeks have felt incredibly long as first Stephen and then Irini came down with terrible colds followed by ear infections. However, while the weeks were long, they also left me feeling incredibly proud as it is their first illness that I felt comfortable treating holistically and by myself, rather than running down to our family doctor and asking for antibiotics. Before you call child services, I was closely monitoring them, and I would have taken them to the doctor if I thought things were becoming more serious than a bad cold. But since it seemed like nothing more than a cold, even if it was a bad one, I felt confident that I could treat it without relying on strong medicines that could further upset their young immune systems.

To treat their colds, I relied on a combination of homeopathic remedies to treat the individual symptoms (such as fever and ear ache) and herbal treatments to boost the immune system so the kids' bodies could fight off the infections themselves. I've already given the recipes for my homemade Vick's Vapor Rub and cough lollies (make sure you supervise children with these carefully) and later in the week I will post the recipe for the ear oil I used to treat the ear infection, but today I'm going to share the elderberry syrup I used. I made this syrup a couple of months ago in preparation for cold and flu season, but this is the first chance I have had to use it. I find it quite tasty, but surprisingly, the kids did not. However, it disappeared quite easily into a berry based juice which they happily drank.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

This recipe is loosely based on Rosemary Gladstar's from her book Family Herbal.

1/2 cup dried black elderberries

1/4 cup dried rosehips

2 tablespoons dried echinacea

1 cinnamon stick

3 cups filtered water

1 cup local honey

  1. Combine the elderberries, rosehips, echinacea, cinnamon and water in a medium saucepan; bring to the boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes.

  2. Strain and combine liquid with the honey.

  3. Bottle in sterilised canning bottles (the ones with the rubber gaskets) leaving half inch of headspace and process in a Vacola hot water bath for 1 hour. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

  4. Alternatively, bottle in sterilised bottles and store in fridge for up to 2 months.

  5. During a cold, take 2 teaspoons 3 times a day for children 3-12, and a tablespoon 3 times a day for adults. You can also take 1 teaspoon (child)/2 teaspoons (adult) daily for general immune boosting.
For my next batch, I won't process it, and will use raw honey instead to get the extra benefits from that.

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Disclaimer: remember that I am not a trained medical practitioner, and this is given as information only, so please seek professional advice in the case of illness.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Product Review: ResVitale Keratin Enhance

Last year I reviewed ResVitale's Resveratrol supplement, and I am still taking it since it seems to work so well, so I jumped at the chance when they offered me the chance to try their latest product, ResVitale Keratin Enhance. This product is aimed at improving the health and strength of your hair, skin and nails, via a patented form of keratin, combined with biotin and ResVitale's core product Resveratrol, the antioxidant from grapes.

Within a couple of weeks, I noticed that my nails were breaking less. This was especially true for my right middle finger nail which has constantly broken once it grows just past the nail bed ever since I slammed it in a door in high school! However, the real reason I really wanted to try this was the promise (backed by a clinical study) that within 90 days hair loss from washing would be reduced by 30%. Ever since I had my kids, my hair just will not stop falling out; I know you normally lose about 100 hairs a day, but I'm telling you, I lose a lot more than that. I need to vacuum the bathroom floor everyday (I am definitely getting dark floor tiles in my next house!) and I am constantly pulling clumps of hair out of the shower drain.

After I finished the first bottle (30 days) I have to say that I couldn't see much of a difference in my hair. However, since it was working on my nails, I decided to buy another couple of bottles, and see how the second and third months went. After two months, my hair looked a lot shinier (at the new growth part) and I could see some improvement in hair loss, but it honestly took almost the full three months for my hair to achieve a significant reduction in hair loss. I am not sure whether this is to do with the hair growth cycle or for some other reason, but regardless of why, I am just happy my hair has stopped falling out at such a dramatic rate. I am now on to my fourth bottle, and the amount of hair I am losing seems to have stabilised at my pre-pregnancy, "normal" rate.

Usually, I like to get my "supplements" through my diet as whole foods, rather than individual supplements, but in this case, I am happy to keep using Keratin Enhance since I don't eat a large amount of animal protein or bone broth (both good natural sources of keratin precursors). And while I can wholeheartedly say that it works, it is not a quick fix. You absolutely need to take it for at least two to three months to see the effects.Link

ResVitale Keratin Enhance is available from here on sale for $29.99 (usually $39.99) for one month's supply.

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Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post. I was sent an initial bottle to try, and then purchased the next two bottles myself. All opinions are my own.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Green Beauty Part 3 - Makeup

This is the final chapter in my Green Beauty series, (check out here and here for the first two parts if you missed them) and today I'll be talking about the makeup products I have switched to. Everyday, there are more and more makeup products coming on the market, many of which have "green" or "natural" or "eco-friendly" labels attached to them. While a good percentage of these labels are nothing more than greenwashing (in my opinion, anyway) it's good to see that many of them that are indeed mostly, if not entirely, natural products produced with the environment in mind. As with my skincare products, I now read all the ingredients labels, and where possible, see how the product rates on the EWG Skin Deep Database.

Bear in mind that there are a lot of great products out there; the ones I am listing are the ones that I have tried and have made it into my regular makeup routine. Make sure you go out there and try a whole lot more, especially since the green pickings here in Oz seems to be much smaller than that available overseas.

Anyway, let's start with the base. I used to be a (powder) mineral makeup fan, but a couple of years ago I decided to switch to a liquid foundation since as my skin is getting older, I really think it is a much nicer, more sophisticated look. Since I liked the concept of mineral makeup, but wanted a liquid, the Jane Iredale Liquid Minerals foundation was a natural (no pun intended!!) choice. Its rating is 2 on the Database which is great, and reading the ingredients for myself, I can't see any nasties - no parabens, etc. The foundation is quite sheer, and while it is buildable, I wouldn't recommend it for someone who wants full coverage. For me, though, the sheer coverage is perfect. I also really love the gel texture - it is lovely and light on my combination/oily skin but I think it would be great on a drier skin as well.

About 6 months ago, I bought the Jane Iredale Circle/Delete Undereye Concealer and this is truly a hero product. I purchased the Peach colour and it is honestly the only product that covers up my dark circles. It is nice and creamy so blends easily but doesn't settle into the fine lines that are starting to appear under my eyes. I also love that the company seems truly invested in being eco-friendly, supporting numerous environmental and animal rights charities financially, as well as working to make their production and packaging as sustainable as possible.

For my eye and cheek makeup, I have fallen in love with the Inika range, an Australian brand that is either 100% organic (and vegan) or 100% mineral, depending on the product. Their products are rated incredibly highly by the Skindeep Database (that is, their product ratings are all between 1 & 3). Their list of what they don't include in their products (such as petrochemical derived products, parabens etc) is much longer than the ingredients that they are willing to use! And from an environmental point of view, this brand really can't be beat. All of their packaging is made from recycled material (and is of course, recyclable) and their products are all 100% cruelty free. But as well as all of this, I truly think their products are a comparable match a luxury brand.

The blush I am using right now is their mineral blush in Rosy Glow, a soft pinky mauve. In summer, I like to switch to Blushing Nude, a pinky bronze. Be warned - it is incredibly concentrated, so unlike most other loose powder blushes I have tried, you only need a tiny bit.

For daytime, I am using their mineral eyeshadow in Whisper, a shimmery light taupe colour that brightens my whole face, topped with their 100% organic eyeliner in Coco, a rich chocolate brown. The eyeliner is lovely and creamy so doesn't drag on the skin and it really lasts. For nighttime, I love doing a smoky eye with Cocoa Motion and Copper Crush, with their eyeliner in Black Caviar.

I haven't tried their mascara yet, but when my stash of freebie mini mascaras runs out, it will definitely be on my shopping list.

For lipstick, I'll go from sheerest to highest coverage. My everyday, kicking around the house, lipstick is Burt's Bees' Tinted Lip Balm. I was sceptical trying this, as I saw it being reviewed in literally EVERY SINGLE magazine and almost every single blog I was reading. And usually when I see it everywhere, my beauty executive past says "great PR team" rather than "great product". But, I was wrong, this is a great product. This is not a lipstick, it is truly a tinted lip balm; that is, it is a balm with just a hint of colour. My go-to colour is rose, and gives my lips a hint of rose pink, like I have just been kissed. It is predominately made with fruit and vegetable oils (like coconut, olive and castor seed) and natural waxes (mostly flower waxes) together with minerals for colour, and rosemary leaf extract and tocopherol (Vitamin E) as natural preservatives. It does have lanolin in it, which may be a concern for some people who are allergic. It is naturally flavoured, and it is a very "soft" fruity flavour that disappears pretty quickly. It is rated 5 on the Database, because it (may) contain alumina (rated 5), and it contains lanolin and fragrance. However, the rest of the ingredients are rated 0 or 1, so since it is natural flavour, and I am not allergic to lanolin, I am very happy using this.

If I am going out of the house, but still want a soft, natural look, then I move onto Burt's Bees' Lip Shimmer in either Raisin (a sheer red colour) or Rhubarb (exactly like it sounds!). Burt's Bees say these are medium to full coverage, but I find they are more like sheer to medium , with a hint of shimmer. These are rated 3, with the only ingredient of concern being lanolin, but again, since I am not allergic, and the rest of the ingredients are rated between 0 and 1, I think this is a really good choice. This definitely has more coverage and colour than the tinted balm, which is most likely due to the lip shimmer containing more waxes than oils compared with the balm. I would probably wear these 2- 3 times a week.

I love Burt's Bees products! I love that they state on the packaging how natural their products are (over half their products are 100% natural, including my two lip choices, and they are working on getting all of them to that level) and that their packaging is from mostly recycled material. I also like that they work on sustainability both within their own company, and out in the wider community.

For times when I want a full coverage lipstick, I am currently using Origins Flower Fusion lipstick. I am not convinced that this is a truly "natural" product since there are a few ingredients in there that I don't know and certainly can't pronounce, and I would prefer to buy from a smaller company, but this could be my bias against huge multi-national companies, rather than it being based on any facts. As a company, they certainly appear to be doing the right things for the environment with regards to sustainability, recycling and the use of renewable resources. As for the lipsticks themselves, I have to say that I love them! I have tried a number of organic lipsticks, but none have measured up to how these feel. They are lovely and silky on the lips, and don't dry them out at all, living up to their promise of hydrating lip colour. And they last. For hours! The colours I have tried are definitely full coverage. My favourite colour at the moment is Hyacinth, a deep pink, which is a great antidote to the winter gloom. I also love Calla Lily, a cool red. Last summer, I was wearing Primrose, a mauvy, bronzy, pink with some shimmer that looked great against my slightly darker summer skin.

So there you have it, my choices for greening my beauty routine. I would love to hear the green beauty products you are using!

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